GCU Cheer team captures 1st national championship
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University Cheer team captured its first national championship Wednesday at the Universal Cheerleaders Association College Nationals in Orlando, Florida.
GCU finished its two performances with a score of 81, seven points ahead of second place McKendree University, to capture the Small Coed Division I title.
In a sport where a winning margin is often measured in tenths of a point, the seven-point win was huge.
“We blew them out of the water,” said an elated Keegan Hubbard, the team’s first-year coach.
The 18-member team pulled off a “high-flying basket followed by a double-flipping pyramid, which sealed the win,” he said.
In layman’s terms, that’s bodies sent flying in a toss, flip and catch about 55 feet in the air.
“Our ending pyramid, we are all tired but we know that it’s our last push to the end, so we made sure we had the courage to trust in our preparedness to execute the routine,” said senior Kevin Luque.
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When it was announced GCU had won, the team erupted in hugs and dog piles.
“We are super happy to be putting GCU on the map with cheerleading,” Luque said. “We have an amazing program. People have known it and tell us about it all the time. Now we have something to validate that and make a bigger name for GCU.
“When people see us, they always compliment us and (the UCA) puts us in all the videos, but now we have something to back it up and can say we are national champions. That’s a great feeling.”
Hubbard said the team endured a challenging season with cancellations because of COVID-19, but the team of athletes maintained a laser-like focus to make the most of every performance.
“It was doing more with less, that was the motto of the year,” he said. “We had less contact, less practice, we had less games to work our skills, so we just had to make the most of what we did. This was really the light at the end of the tunnel.”
GCU impressed judges, whose comments included high marks for its execution and energy.
Hubbard said the team was inspired by the men’s basketball team, which earned its first trip to the NCAA tournament.
“Seeing a new coach come in and being able to take them to the Big Dance, they said we can do the same thing with a new coach and take it to that next level and come up with a national championship,” said Hubbard, who was an associate head coach for five years before this season.
The title-winning performance had origins in the GCU Arena energy at basketball games.
“We get to take the crazy GCU game day with the Havocs, and we get to bring it to Florida and make it an incredible performance — just show them what we have built up in Arizona,” Luque said.
For six seniors, it was the joyous ending to years of workouts and practices. Hubbard said they could have taken the easy way out this year and done their academic courses online, but they stuck with all the alternations to the schedule to represent the University.
“I think this is a great benchmark of excellence of how GCU is always on the rise. Even through a pandemic, we are making huge strides,” he said.
To Luque, the team was more than its title-winning performance; it’s what GCU Cheer represents.
“GCU has something different, and I always say it has to do with our Christian-based team. We shine wherever we go, even with simple interactions with bus drivers or event staff. I think that is part of our job as cheerleaders, being able to provide that energy to other people.
“I’m proud as a senior that we are leaving a legacy behind. To be able to look back at this and say we were a part of it − this will be a foundation of what will be more to come.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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